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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

David, king of Israel: his life and its lessons online

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of turning to the one hand or to the other, to follow some in-
viting footpath which seems to shorten the distance. Be sure
that will land you in some dismal swamp, wherein you will
flounder and struggle for a longer time than it would have
taken to go by the proper road, and, when you get to your
destination, you will be all over mud ! Let no vision of im-
mediate success beguile you to do wrong. Do as God would
have you ; and leave it to him to bring you to the goal you
seek, in his own time. Make haste slowly, and rather resign
yourself to the loss of your kingdom, than go to it through
shame and sin.

Again : if the view which I have given as to the title of
the yth Psalm, and its connection with the history which we
have been considering, be correct, it brings up before us the
whole subject of slander.

What a meanly cruel man this Cush must have been !
He did not come face to face with David, and allow him the



148 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

opportunity either of making an explanation or of demand-
ing an investigation ; but, like a cowardly assassin, he stab-
bed him from behind, and whispered his falsehoods into
the ear of Saul, with every added embellishment of external
mannerism to give them effect. Now, have we nothing like
this, even in our own day and in our own circles ? Who
knows not among his acquaintances some scandal -monger
who is forever whispering away some one's reputation with
a " They say," or " I'm sure L hope it is not true ; but yet,
you know, the best of men are but men at the best, and it
does look very suspicious, to say the least of it ?" Give me
rather a hundred open, honorable enemies than one such
serpent- tongued and behind -back antagonist as that. Let
me see my accusers : let me be brought face to face with
any open, above-board statement, at any righteous tribunal ;
but let me not be set to fight with one who will not come
forth from his dark ambush, unless it be to aim another
blow when he can do so unseen. It may seem a small mat-
ter to the slanderer himself; he may look upon it even as
a good joke ; but it is a serious business with him whom
he assails, for the lie will pass round and round, gathering
as it goes, and may, perhaps, entail upon its victim the se-
verest agony.

"A whisper broke the air
A soft, light tone, and low,
Yet barb'd with shame and woe :
Now might it perish only there,

Nor farther go !
Ah me ! a quick and eager ear

Caught up the little meaning sound !
Another voice has breathed it clear,

And so it wandered round
From ear to lip, from lip to ear,
Until it reached a gentle heart,
And that it broke !"



CAVE SONGS. 149

Think of that when the slanderous story rises to your lips,
and be silent !

But though, perhaps, the large part of the blame belonged
to Cush, we can not hold Saul guiltless. He ought to have
been above receiving private accusations against any man,
most of all against one who had done so much for the de-
fense of his country as David had ; but, alas ! the wish was
father to the scandal here. Saul desired some ground on
which he might rid himself of David, and so he was ready
to believe any evil that might be laid to his charge. If the
king had not been willing to hear, Cush would have had no
opportunity to speak. In all slander, therefore, the hearer
is as bad as the speaker ; and if we were only to act as we
ought to do when a tale-bearer begins to speak, we should
instantly take measures either to silence him or to leave his
presence. It is a poor compliment one pays to us when he
begins to retail scandal in our ear, because it proves that he
believes us to be capable of enjoying it ; and certainly no
enjoyment could be more diabolical. Hence, if we were to
feel rightly in this regard, we would view it as the greatest
insult that could be offered to us, when one comes to us with
a whispered history that is intended to destroy our confi-
dence in the absent. "Where no wood is, there the fire go-
eth out ;" so, where there is no listener, the scandal-monger's
"occupation's gone." But ere I quit this subject, let me di-
rect a moment's attention to the bearing of David under this
affliction. He embraces the first opportunity of confronting
it, and then he makes his appeal to God, and waits his vindi-
cation at the hands of Providence ; while, at the same time,
he gives expression to the conviction that, sooner or later,
the false accuser would be visited for his iniquity, and fall
into the pit which he had digged for another. As, in a later
history, when Paul was about to be made a victim by an un-
principled governor, who sought only to make the most of



150 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

his position for his own aggrandizement, he appealed unto
Caesar, thereby removing himself to a higher tribunal in an-
other land, so here, amidst the accusations that were heaped
upon him by Cush, David appealed to heaven, saying, vir-
tually, " There is one that judgeth me, even God." Thus let
it be with us in times when we are assailed by slander. We
may not expect to get through the world without some of
it. Better men than any of us have had much of it to bear ;
and the better a man is, the greater is the danger of such as-
saults ; for it is only the finest fruit that the birds will peck
at, or the wasps destroy ! Let us prepare for it, therefore ;
and when we are called to bear it, let us take it as David
took it ; nay, higher still, let us take it as it was taken by
David's Lord, " who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ;
when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself
to him that judgeth righteously."

I add only one other thought : Observe, from the case of
Saul, that true repentance is a deeper thing than feeling, and
is distinguished by permanence as well as sincerity. Saul
says, "I have sinned ;" but we must not imagine, because he
uses these words, that he has truly repented of his transgres-
sions. Indeed, if you are familiar with the Word of God,
you will at once recall a number of instances recorded in it,
in which this very expression was employed, but with a dif-
ferent result in almost every case. Thus we hear Pharaoh
saying, when the plague of hail had desolated Egypt, " I have
sinned ;" but the end with him was the hardening of his
heart, and his utter destruction. When the lot discovered
Achan, and brought out to light the wedge of gold and the
Babylonish garment which he had hidden in his tent, he too
said, " I have sinned ;" but there was nothing in his heart of
that spontaneousness which is the essence of all true confes-
sion. When Judas came with the pieces of silver, and cast
them at the feet of the Pharisees, he too said, " I have sin-



CAVE SONGS. 151

ned ;" and very deep and bitter was his consciousness of
guilt ; but his feeling was remorse, and not repentance, and
so he rushed recklessly from the world, vainly seeking a place
where he might hide from God. When, after his great sin,
David was brought to himself by the expostulation of Na-
than, he fell on his knees, and sobbed out the 5ist Psalm,
part of which is as follows : " Against thee, thee only, have
I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight ;" and in that jewel
of the parables, the story of the Prodigal Son, we hear the
starving youth, as he lies in his swineherd's den, soliloquiz-
ing thus : " I will arise and go to my father, and will say
unto him, Father, I have sinned against hqaven, and before
thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." Now,
the mere repetition of these six different ways in which the
words " I have sinned " have been employed, will help us to
distinguish between genuine and spurious repentance. They
differ in the root out of which they spring. The spurious
springs from fear, or from a desire to escape punishment ;
the genuine springs from the contemplation of God and
now of God more especially as he has revealed himself to us
in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Which, my hearer,
is yours? Have you ever yet said, " I have sinned ?" and if
you have said it, why have you done so ? True repentance
is simultaneous with the reception of Christ, and is not to be
regarded as a preparation for coming to him. The question
has often been asked, indeed, whether faith or repentance
comes first, but in reality they may almost be regarded as
two ways of describing the same thing. A man truly be-
lieves only when he repents ; he really repents only when
he believes. Faith is the hold which repentance has of
Christ ; repentance is the view which faith has of sin : Faith
is the soul's turning to Christ. But it can not turn to Christ
without at the same time also turning from sin, and that is
repentance. Faith is the looking eye resting upon Jesus ;



152 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Repentance is the tear that gathers and glistens in that eye,
as it sees the soul's own sins in the burden which the Re-
deemer bore. Let us learn to say, " I have sinned " thus at
the foot of the cross, and no doubt about the genuineness of
our penitence need ever trouble us.



IX.

N A B A L .
i SAMUEL xxv.

IN the interval between the two meetings of David with
Saul, which we considered in our last discourse, the Land
of Israel sustained a sore bereavement in the death of the
venerable Samuel.

Brought up at the feet of Eli in the Tabernacle at Shiloh,
and called while yet a boy to the prophetical office, Samuel
had lived almost continuously in the service of the nation,
and had gathered to himself the affection and the confidence
of the whole community. Seeking not his own glory, but
devotedly attached to the people, and eagerly solicitous for
the honor of Jehovah, he had been both a civil benefactor
and a religious reformer. He rectified the abuses which
had sprung up under the wicked sanction of the sons of Eli,
and set himself to the administration of even-handed justice
among the tribes. He established the practice of holding
circuit courts, which has been so largely followed in modern
times ; and by the decisions which he gave, he redeemed
the seat of judgment from the contempt into which it had
fallen.

He reorganized the Tabernacle services, and by the in-
fluence at once of his teachings and his life, he lifted the
priestly office from the depth of infamy to which Hophni
and Phineas had sunk it, so that it was no longer true that
the most corrupt and degraded looked to it as the last ref-
uge of their destitution, saying, " Put us into the priest's of-
fice, that we may eat a piece of bread." He established the

7*



154 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

schools of the prophets, at which young men were educated
for the higher service of the nation ; and by his attention to
the art of music, he prepared the way for those admirable
arrangements for " the service of song in the house of the
Lord," which, at a later day, made the name of David illus-
trious. But perhaps the greatest benefit which he conferred
on his fellow-countrymen was in the influence which he ex-
erted over them by his godly example. He lived the truth
which he taught, and drew to him increasingly, as the years
revolved, the affection of the people. Yea, though in the
pride of their heart they had desired a king to rule over
them, he had never lost their confidence, but was among
them to the last an uncrowned king, to whom, in all seasons
of perplexity, they instinctively turned for counsel and as-
sistance. In his later days, indeed, he had retired, in a great
measure, into private life, and more especially after the form-
al rejection of Saul and the anointing of David, he had sel-
dom appeared in public. Still, his very presence among
them was a consolation and a defense, and, in the unsettled
state of national affairs, the pious members of the communi-
ty would feel new confidence when they thought of him.

But the time had come when he must die. Humanly
speaking, he could ill be spared from a land which was
blighted by the sway of a self-willed and unscrupulous mon-
arch, and torn by the distraction of civil strife ; but the dis-
cord of earth would make the peace of heaven only the more
welcome to him, while it intensified the grief of all good men
at his loss. To his own children, who walked not in his
way, his death would be, perhaps, the breaking of the last re-
straint that held them from running headlong into uttermost
iniquity ; to the young men of the school of the prophets,
it would be the taking from them of their best and wisest
earthly friend ; and they would each cry out, like Elisha af-
ter the ascending Elijah, " My father ! my father ! the chari-



NABAL. 155

ots of Israel and the horsemen thereof." To Saul it might
be a relief, as ridding him of one who, alone of all his sub-
jects, feared not to tell him wholesome truth ; but to David
it would be a sore distress, making him feel as if the one
earthly link that bound him to his future kingdom had some-
how snapped asunder. He would recall the clay when the
prophet came to Bethlehem to anoint him, and go back in
thought to the happy hours which he had spent with him
at Ramah ; and as he looked around him at the state of the
land, and before him at the difficulties which were barring
his way to his predestined throne, we may well conceive him
sitting down and singing, out of the depths, the Psalm be-
ginning, " Help, Lord for the godly man ceaseth ; for the
faithful fail from among the children of men."* Most ap-
propriate, therefore, was it that all Israel should gather to
the good man's burial ; and among the crowd of mourners
that stood around the tomb at Ramah, we may be sure that
there was not one more deeply moved than David.

But his grief for the loss of Samuel, great as it was, could
not be allowed to interfere with the taking of those precau-
tions which were needed to insure his own safety. Accord-
ingly, that he might keep out of the way of Saul, he led his
men to the wilderness of Paran. This name was given to
the entire tract of country south of Judah, extending from
the Dead Sea to the peninsula of Sinai and the desert of
Egypt ; so that in its largest sense it included the deserts of
Kadesh and Sin. Nearly all the wanderings of the children
of Israel were in the great and terrible wilderness of Paran.
But in the present narrative it seems to be restricted to the
most northerly portion of this desert, lying to the west of the
lower part of the Dead Sea, where the waste changes gradu-
ally into an uninhabited pasture-land, in which, at least in

* Psalm xii.



156 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

spring and autumn, many herds might feed. In this neigh-
borhood was the town of Maon, which was eight miles south-
by- east of Hebron ; and about one mile to the north of
Maon was the village of Carmel, to be carefully distinguish-
ed from the promontory and mountain of that name on the
shore of the Mediterranean.

In the former of these towns, but with possessions which
connected him also with the latter, there dwelt a wealthy
man, named, or, perhaps rather nicknamed, Nabal, or the
fool, who was distinguished by his niggardly disposition, self-
ish character, and sottish habits. He might almost have
sat for the portrait which our Lord has drawn in the parable
of " the rich fool," only in his case the degrading vice of in-
temperance was added to the grasping passion of avarice.
He was a descendant of the noble Caleb, but he had none
of Caleb's nature in him. He lived only to increase his
goods and to pamper his appetite. Proud of his " three
thousand sheep " and his " one thousand goats," he fancied
that they gave him a right to snub and despise those who
were less fortunate in the world. His wealth had not en-
dowed him with common sense ; but, like many in our own
day, he imagined that, because he was in affluent circum-
stances, he might with impunity indulge in rude, ill-manner-
ed sneers at all who were around him. " What did he care
for the courtesies or the kindnesses of life? Was not he
the great man of the place? Could not he do just as he
pleased? And as for what other people thought of him,
what did that matter to him ? Was not he independent of
them all ?" Thus, from the murmurs of those around him,
he took refuge in the self-complacent soliloquy : " Soul, thou
hast much goods laid up for many years ; eat, drink, and be
merry." The race was not extinct in our Saviour's day. It
is not extinct in our own. Let no one suppose, therefore,
that when we come upon this Nabal, we are like the geolo-



NABAL. 157

gist when in the crust of the earth he lights upon some huge
old megalosaurus, and that we have here the petrified fossil
of a kind of animal which was common in the oolite period,
but has now entirely disappeared. Not at all ! You very
likely met him yesterday. You may meet him, perhaps, to-
morrow. The man with heavy purse and light head, with
full pockets and empty cranium, is everywhere a Nabal ;
and if, haply, he combines with these the gluttony of the
gourmand or the thirst of the drunkard, he will only make
the identity more complete.

This purse-proud boor, had contrived (and here, again, the
resemblance to the modern specimen of the same species
often holds good) to marry a woman " of good understand-
ing, and of a beautiful countenance." I know not how it
was brought about. We will be charitable, however, and
hope that it was, like other Eastern marriages, a matter of
parental arrangement, and that her lofty appreciation of his
wealth had nothing at all to do with it. If this were so, then
she at least was not so mercenary as some in our enlightened
age, who if they can only marry a carriage and pair, do not
seem to care whether or not they have a husband of mental
ability and moral worth fit to be the companion of their dai-
ly lives.

At the time of David's sojourn in this district, Nabal held
his annual sheep-shearing. This was equivalent to the har-
vest of the flock-masters, and was commonly finished with a
joyous feast which corresponded to the harvest-home. Gen-
erally, therefore, it was a season of liberality and good-will.
It was the yearly stock-taking time, and if things had turn-
ed out well, if the flocks had increased in number, and the
fleeces were up to the average standard of weight and value,
the heart of their owner was opened, and he was commonly
disposed to show more than usual kindness to all who were
in need. In the present instance, David knew that Nabal



158 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

had peculiar reasons for being satisfied with the returns from
his shepherds, for during the sojourn of his troop in the lo-
cality, he had constituted himself the guardian of Nabal's
property, and, on the testimony of the shepherds, had not
only not injured them himself, but had been a wall around
them by night and day, so that neither were they injured by
any one, nor had they missed any thing all the time that
they had been beside them.

Conscious, therefore, of the services which he and his fol-
lowers had rendered this sheep- farmer, and expecting that in
the day of his gladness his heart would be opened to give a
substantial reward to his benefactors, David sent ten of his
young men to him with a kindly greeting, and a polite request
that he would give them some supplies. To their surprise,
however, they were met not only with a gruff refusal, but with
insulting sneers, which cast the blackest aspersions on the char-
acter of their leader. " Who is David ?" quoth Nabal, " and
who is the son of Jesse ? there be many servants nowadays
that break away every man from his master. Shall I then
take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed
for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not
whence they be ?"

Stung to the quick by these aggravating words, the young
men went to David, and told him how they had been re-
pulsed. Very likely their story lost nothing in the telling.
Most probably, indeed, they would infuse something of their
own wounded pride into their account; but in any case,
when David heard what they said, he became fiercely indig-
nant, and ordering four hundred of his men to arm them-
selves and follow him, he went forth, vowing the deepest ven-
geance, and determined not to leave a single survivor of all
those who belonged to the ungrateful cynic who had so in-
sulted him.

But this was all wrong ; for though David had a clear



NABAL. . 159

moral right to be recompensed for the services which he had
rendered to Nabal, he had no legal title to the smallest por-
tion of his property; far less had he any justification for seek-
ing thus to destroy him and his household. We have not a
syllable to say in Nabal's vindication ; 'but neither can we
utter a word in defense of David for this revengeful purpose.
This was not like him who so reined in his spirit when Saul
was in his power. It was altogether unworthy of one who
had received so many signal tokens of kindness from the
Lord. Who was Nabal, that for his rudeness he should let
himself be so disturbed? If the man was a fool, then as such
his words were beneath contempt, and it would have been
much more in harmony with the high-mindedness of the poet-
hero if he had taken no notice of his rudeness, and allowed
him to rail on. Hence his purpose to destroy Nabal's house
was as undignified as it was iniquitous. Human life is a
holy thing, and he who takes it away from pride, or passion,
or avarice, or lust, commits a foul outrage on the community,
and a grievous sin against the Lord. No matter what the
character of his victim may be, the man who takes the life of
another dishonors God and degrades the law ; and it bodes
ill for the commonwealth when deeds like these are allowed
to be done with impunity.

But by the prompt and prudent management of Abigail,
Nabal's wife, David was saved, in this instance, from carry-
ing out his rash intention. It came about in this fashion :
One of the shepherds who knew how much they had all been
indebted to David and his men, and who feared the conse-
quences of Nabal's rudeness, went at once to Abigail, and
stated the case to her. He did not take it upon him to ex-
postulate with his master, " for he knew that he was such a
son of Belial that a man could not speak to him." But he
had confidence in the sagacity of his mistress, and he be-
sought her to take measures immediately to ward off the evil



160 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

which would be sure to come upon them all. His appeal
was not made in vain, for she made haste, and laded asses
with ample stores of provisions ; and, sending these on be-
fore, she determined to go herself and make an ample expla-
nation and apology to David.

She had not come a moment too soon, for, as she was de-
scending into a covert of the hill on the one side, David and
his men were coming down on the other, " nursing their
wrath" the while. As soon as she saw them, she lighted
from her ass, and, falling at David's feet, in Oriental fash-
ion, she made suit to him in such a manner as to show a rare
amount of womanly tact and intellectual ability. Taking all
the blame upon herself, she referred to her husband " with that
union of playfulness and seriousness which, above all things,
turns away wrath."* "As his name is, so is he ; fool (Nabal)
is his name, and folly is with him." Then she proceeded,
on the supposition that her request had been already grant-
ed, to congratulate David that the Lord had withholden him
from shedding blood, and she begged his acceptance, for his
young men, of the supplies which she had brought. Thereaf-
ter, rising from present circumstances, she went on to refer to
the future in such a way as to show that she had implicit faith
in the prophecies that had gone before concerning David ;
and in a manner the most delicately adroit she concluded by
saying that, when God had given him the kingdom, it should
be no grief to him that he had shed blood causeless, or that
he had avenged himself. All this was most pertinently put ;
and when she spake of God's " making David a sure house ;"
of his soul as " bound in the bundle of life with the Lord
his God," and of his enemies as destined to be " slung out, as
out of the middle of a sling," we do not wonder that she gain-
ed her object. She was a woman ; and though we give her

* Stanley's "Jewish Church," vol. ii., p. 79.



NABAL. 161

full credit for sincerity in all that she said, we can not but ad-
mire the dexterous female generalship with which she carried
her point in such a way as to leave David with the impression
that he -was laid by her under a deep obligation. Neither
can we overlook the fact, so creditable to her piety, that by



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 12 of 36)